Preserving the Living Treasure and Civilizational Heritage
The Orang Asli, like any other community in Malaysia, are important members of the society. Their numbers may not be large, but they represent a heritage-rich link with the early peoples of Peninsular Malaysia which, once destroyed, would be lost forever.
In line with German human rights policy, the German Embassy contributed a sum of 62,000 Euro to a project of the Malaysian Bar Council, aiming to protect the land rights of the Orang Asli population in Peninsular Malaysia.
Last Friday, the German Ambassador, Dr. Günter Gruber, handed over the cheque to the President of the Malaysian Bar Council, Mr. Lim Chee Wee, for their joint project and set a milestone for promoting Orang Asli rights.
The Malaysian Bar supports Orang Asli communities by holding various programmes geared towards legal empowerment. They call for lawyers to provide pro bono services to the Orang Asli, and are actively advocating for their voices to be heard. They join with representatives of the Orang Asli community to evaluate claims, help to collect supportive evidence and also advise on eventual court proceedings concerning the land rights of Malaysia’s indigenous community. In fact, the land rights of the Orang Asli are closely interlinked with their enjoyment of a whole range of human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights.
“The Orang Asli are very poor, they can’t walk into a law firm. We have to go to them, to the problem. That of course is quite a task, because the Orang Asli do not live in Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya or any area near Kuala Lumpur. They live deep in the country side. It takes a lot of time, effort and money to go there to see them, to understand their problems, and to take up their cases. We are short-handed and we need more volunteers (lawyers) to step up and speak up for the Orang Asli,” Bar Council Committee on Orang Asli Rights co-chairman Steven Thiru shared his experiences over the lunch table.
Promotion and protection of human rights is a central concern of the German Federal Government. Under the budget line “Measures to Promote Human Rights”, annually about 70 to 80 projects of differing scales are supported worldwide. The projects are meant to improve the human rights situation through education, information, counselling or teaching. The projects target the whole spectrum of human rights and reflect all fields of German human rights policy.
The German Embassy is grateful to be part of this project, preserving the way of life of the Orang Asli as a living national treasure and civilizational heritage for Malaysia.